Career Coach: Advice for first-time bosses

June 20

Joyce E.A. Russell field questions from readers in an online chat last week. Here are excerpts, edited for grammar, brevity and clarity:

Finding the right fit

Q: I walked away from a toxic situation — still believe it was the right decision — but, boy, is it true that it’s easier to look while you’re employed!

I could not believe how many nibbles I got that led to nothing and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was because I’d left a job. I also suspected ageism at work. One recruiter told me that we’d be going forward and that his security person would call me to start the clearance process. A few minutes later the security person called and the first question she asked was my date of birth. I know that’s required for a clearance, so I gave it. She hemmed and hawed about foreign relatives for a few minutes, then said they’d get back to me with next steps. I left a voicemail for the recruiter a few days later, but heard nothing.

So, after 10 months of this kind of behavior I found myself talking with a company that put me through four phone screens and four in-person interviews (eight different people). Each person assured me I was the “best fit” for this job, but the decision guy would not pull the trigger.

Then I got a call from a company who set an interview after a brief phone screen. They called me back a few days later to meet the chief executive and they called that evening to offer me the job. It’s the best work/life balance I’ve had in years. It’s a hectic pace each day, but with no evenings or weekends. And the company dynamic is great — generally friendly and upbeat.

Things truly do work out for the best — it usually just takes longer than we would like.

Russell: Thanks for sharing your insights and experiences. It is important to look for a job while you are employed since future employers really do not know if you are miserable in your current job or you are just looking for more opportunities. So, staying employed if possible makes you look more attractive to future employers who sometimes feel like they are now trying to “woo” you away.

First-time supervisor

Q: Any book or article suggestions for a first-time supervisor? I’ve worked for a lot of people who I don’t want to emulate.

Russell: I really like a number of books by Kouzes and Posner (“The Leadership Challenge,” “Truths about Leadership,” etc.) because they use lots of practical examples to share key tips and strategies. Also, reading books about the value of creating a motivational environment and using recognition and appreciation in the workplace (“The Carrot Principle,” “The Orange Revolution”) are also important for your success in building a highly engaged workplace.

More advice for first timer

Q: Add to that list for the first time manager anything by Allison Green of Askamanager.org She’s brilliant.

Russell:Thanks for sharing!

Leadership tips

Russell: I always get lots of questions from readers about moving into a new supervisory role. Here are some tips that might help you out:

1. Start out by meeting with all of your direct reports, and if possible, the entire team (even their direct reports). Learn what they love about their jobs and challenges they face. You might even ask “what can I do in my role to enable you to be even more successful,” then really listen to the answers.

2. Acknowledge their previous contributions to thank them for being part of the organization and for all they have contributed.

3. Find someone you can trust to provide advice and counsel for you. It is always important to have a trusted adviser to serve as a sounding board.

4. Find out what they think about meetings and be sure to make any needed changes so that the meetings are more productive, fun and value-added. A book called “Death by Meetings” offers some great tips here.

5. Review what is done for recognition and appreciation. This is often a valuable way to make sure your employees are getting the visibility they need, and are motivated and energized at work.

6. Make sure you have gotten training on conducting performance feedback sessions. This is often one of the most difficult parts of a supervisor’s job, yet very critical for helping employees.

7. Make sure you are being inclusive. Are you spending time with employees of all backgrounds — whether differences in generations, race, gender, ability, etc. All individuals want and need to feel valued at work. Are you setting the right tone for how individuals are treated in terms of respect, civility and fairness?

8. Be transparent about communications. Employees want to understand what is going on.

9. Remember that employees watch everything you do and say. Be the most ethical role model you can be. Your integrity and credibility are the foundation for building a strong, trusting, successful team.

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